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Read to be Ready Summer Grant Programs Again Show Significant Gains in Student Learning

Over 7,700 Tennessee Students Served in Third Year of Summer Camps Focused on Improving Literacy
Tuesday, September 11, 2018 | 10:06am

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has announced the results from the third year of the Read to be Ready Summer Grant Program, which provides funding to educators to lead tuition-free, literacy-focused summer camps for students in need across the state. For the third year in a row, rising first, second, and third grade students who participated in the program showed gains in their reading comprehension and accuracy skills and increased their motivation to read.

Additionally, through the summer grant program, more than 193,000 high-quality books were sent home with students, and each student, on average, received 25 new books for his or her home library. Students who attend Read to be Ready summer camps generally are economically disadvantaged and not reading on grade level. Rather than sliding backward, students in Read to be Ready camps have a chance to keep learning and advance their reading skills through a variety of literacy experiences over the critical summer months.

"Once again, we have seen the powerful impact Read to be Ready summer camps can have on our students," McQueen said. "The Read to be Ready Summer Grant program allows our students to develop the skills they need to become proficient readers, a skill that is essential for their lifelong success. By continuing this work together, we can continue this progress so every child is reading on grade-level by the time they leave third grade."

Read to be Ready summer literacy camps are meant to help students enter the new school year excited and ready to learn without losing any valuable knowledge from the previous school year over the summer. To track success, the department required summer camps to conduct a pre- and post-survey and interview and a pre- and post-assessment on skills gained. The results show that on average, students' ability to read accurately improved, which allowed students to spend less time analyzing words and pay more attention to meaning. As anticipated with an uptick in accuracy, students' reading comprehension rate increased as well. This statistically significant increase in comprehension suggests that students were not sacrificing meaning and understanding of texts for the sake of increased accuracy. Additionally, students' motivation to read also increasedthis means students became more confident in their reading skills and began seeing themselves as readers.

Another key component of the summer grant is robust training for educators. Recipients of the grant are required to send all educators to a department training that focuses on delivering strategies to support student choice, motivation, and growth, not only in the summer, but in the school year as well. In 2018, the training prioritized writing and modeled how to effectively implement it throughout the day to increase student interest and stamina. As Read to be Ready moves into its fourth year, training will focus on building knowledge through literacy and will further expose educators to the ways they can leverage the reading, writing, and enrichment experiences that students are engaged in to build concrete connections about the world around them.

For summer 2018, the third year of the grant program, the department increased funding per student to allow more sites the ability to offer transportation for students. This allowed programs to fully fund the key components of successful camps, like providing a variety of high-quality texts and a range of learning experiences, while also meeting a significant need for students.

All Tennessee public schools were eligible to apply for a Read to be Ready summer grant. Prospective applicants were asked to design summer camps that were at least four weeks in length and at least four hours per day—providing students with access to at least 80 hours of literacy-focused instruction and enrichment during the summer. The summer camps use high-interest books, authentic literacy experiences, and engaging field trips to help increase students' motivation. Additionally, camps were required to maintain a one–to-five teacher-to-student ratio. Through this setting, teachers and students are able to work as partners in literacy development and address the individual needs of students in tailored ways. 

In February 2016, Governor Bill Haslam, First Lady Crissy Haslam, and Commissioner McQueen launched Read to be Ready, a statewide literacy campaign with the goal of ensuring at least 75 percent of Tennessee third graders are reading on grade level by 2025. The Dollar General Literacy Foundation pledged $1 million to support Read to be Ready, including the initial funding for the summer grant program. In February 2017, the Tennessee Department of Human Services invested $30 million over three years to enhance and expand the summer grant program. The addition of these funds made it possible to dramatically increase the number of students served through these summer literacy camps.

The application for the 2019 summer grant program is available now through Oct. 22. All school districts are encouraged to apply, and full application details can be found on the 2019 summer grant website

More details on the results from year three of the Read to be Ready summer grant can be found in a report released today. For more questions about Read to be Ready or the grant application process, please contact ReadtobeReady.TN@tn.gov.  For media inquiries, please contact Sara Gast, director of communications, at Sara.Gast@tn.gov and (615) 532-6260.